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TAGAYTAY, Philippines -- Philippine officials appealed Monday for residents who were evacuated from towns endangered by the erupting Taal volcano not to return to their homes because of the risk.

Thousands of villagers were evacuated within hours Monday after the volcano's sudden escalation of activity Sunday, with the state's Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology warning of an imminent "hazardous eruption" that could cause a "violent tsunami" in the lake surrounding the volcanic island. The institute raised the alert level to 4 on a scale of 5 Sunday.

Clouds of ash from the Taal volcano reached Manila, 40 miles to the north, on Sunday, forcing the shutdown of the country's main airport, with more than 500 flights canceled. The airport partially reopened Monday after the ashfall eased.

Overnight, earthquakes associated with the rumbling volcano rocked many areas and rains compounded the deteriorating situation, turning the coarse ash into thick, solidifying mud that clung to cars, windows and roofs.

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The government's disaster-response agency and other officials reported more than 30,000 villagers fled their homes in the hard-hit province of Batangas and nearby Cavite province. Officials expected the number to swell.

But the perilous situation did not deter some people from returning to their homes after they initially fled to safety. Some residents found ways to return to check on their livestock despite warnings of the dangers.

"We are asking assistance from the government to bring in more soldiers to help us control our residents who ignore warnings and go back," said Wilson Maralit, mayor of the town of Balete, which sits on the lake surrounding the volcano. "They slip through our security cordon and are returning there. While we also understand that they want to check on their livestock, we don't want them to get harmed."

Taal suddenly rumbled back to life on Sunday, blasting steam, ash and pebbles up to 6 to 9 miles into the sky, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

On Monday, the ash and steam column reached a height of about a mile, with lava fountains spurting less than half of that height before falling into the lake waters surrounding the main crater. Lava also spurted from another vent north of the main crater, said Renato Solidum, who heads the institute.

Residents of nearby towns were hosing mud off their windows and roofs even as tremors continued to rock surrounding towns.

"There is a fear that anytime this can explode," the mayor said.Sen. Francis Tolentino, a former mayor of Tagaytay, where many of the evacuated people were taken, warned that the volcano could continue rumbling for days or even weeks.

"The towns surrounding the lake are still in a state of shock," Tolentino said. "I am appealing to everyone -- the residents of the affected communities -- to follow instructions of local authorities and not to immediately return to their homes until the situation has calmed down a bit."

He said the events Sunday "happened too fast," forcing many residents to flee with only the clothes on their backs.

"There was no time to prepare their belongings," he said in an interview. "Right now, we are looking at some ghost towns already. But some people are returning."

He said that the Batangas province city of Talisay has been largely emptied of its residents. Nearly 10,000 people have been evacuated from eight towns, and more than 100 domestic and international flights had been canceled in Manila, according to the government.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council strongly urged "a total evacuation" of the volcanic island and surrounding areas that are susceptible to a volcanic tsunami, or those living within a 8-mile radius from the main crater.

Gallery: Taal volcano

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Information for this article was contributed by Jason Gutierrez and Jes Aznar of The New York Times; and by Joeal Calupitan, Jim Gomez, Kiko Rosario and Aaron Favila of The Associated Press.

A Section on 01/14/2020

Print Headline: Stay away from volcano, Filipinos told

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